Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paddy Ashdown sticks to his guns on reform of the House of Lords

There is a grassroots Facebook group called Liberal Democrats for Lords Reform. And it is certainly needed, given the number of Lib Dem peers who have suddenly come to see virtue in the Ancien RĂ©gime.

They vary from the former Liberal leader Lord Steel to the newly ennobled Baron Strasburger (I have to confess I had never heard of him until he got his peerage), who has already been half seduced by the more Ruritanian aspects of Westminster life:
Most of us here have outgrown the raw ambition that afflicts us in our youth, and that allows us to take a more balanced view of the world than elected politicians jostling for their place in the hierarchy. It is therefore vital, in my view, that any reforms do not jettison the benefits of the wisdom that come only from experience and that the skills of some of those who have chosen a career outside the world of politics are included in the new arrangements. 
So I would now favour a mostly elected Chamber with a significant minority of appointed Members. That way we can have the best of both worlds: democratic credibility and wisdom based on genuine achievement and experience.
So all power to a more distinguished party leader, Paddy Ashdown for his uncompromising demand for a democratically elected second chamber.

Max Atkinson has the full text of his wonderful speech:
I spent an engaging hour and a half yesterday in the House of Lords Library, looking through opposition speeches made in December 1831 to the Great Reform Act 1832 and to the Reform Act 1867. Five arguments were put forward. The first was: there is no public call for such reform beyond those mad radicals of Manchester. The second was: we should not be wasting our time and money on these matters; there are more important things to discuss such as the Schleswig-Holstein problem, the repeal of the corn laws or the crisis in the City that caused Anthony Trollope to write his wonderful novel.

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